Coronavirus Updates

In this test of Singapore’s strength as a nation, teacher tells students to “be more than”

Yuwen Cass // February 9, 2020, 9:28 pm

NEW coronavirus - school teacher 1

When SARS hit Singapore, Yuwen was just a 15-year-old who was naively happy when schools were closed. 17 years on, she is now an educator who has wised up and wants to not only impart knowledge, but also “protect the good” in her students.

In one of her recent posts on an Instagram account she started with a fellow teacher, the caption read: “Panic buying and hoarding places fellow Singaporeans who are in need in danger. Be more than a selfish Singaporean. Be more than, because you are more than that.” 

The following reflection was first published on her Facebook page and has been republished with permission. 


In 2003, my OBS was cancelled because of the outbreak of SARS. I was secretly happy because I wasn’t looking forward to it anyway. I remember being even happier when they closed schools.

I turned on the news, saw the infection and death toll climbing, but I didn’t understand what all that meant so I thought it was just a free holiday. I really didn’t know better then.

It’s 2020. Students everywhere are taking their temperatures daily, singing the National Anthem in class instead of the assembly grounds and having their camps cancelled.

Some groan about the “troublesome” measures. Some are happy about not having to go to camps. Some constantly ask when schools will close.

In 2003, the news of Dr Alexandre Chao made its mark on me. What a true Singapore son, a dedicated doctor and honourable human being.

It’s 2020, and my heart is troubled as I watch the news. Numbers are climbing every day. This global health emergency has sparked frantic buying of surgical masks and sanitisers. Singaporeans are panic-buying and hoarding groceries and necessities for themselves, leaving the shelves empty.

In 2003, I was a naive 15-year-old out of touch with the world, completely ignorant and fearless.

It’s 2020, and I know better now, but what can I do? I’m not a frontline medical worker, I’m not a scientist who can invent a cure and I’m not an immigration officer who keeps our borders safe.

It’s 2020, and I’m an educator. So I do my best to educate.

It so happens that we’re talking about governance and citizenship in class, so the students ask. They ask…

  • how the novel coronavirus started.
  • if it really came from bats.
  • what happens in quarantine.
  • why they need to wash their hands.
  • why the government gives only 4 masks.
  • why adults do not wear masks when they are sick.
  • when the virus will end.
  • why Singaporeans are hoarding necessities.
  • why we can’t just close schools.

They ask so many questions that I don’t necessarily have the answers to. But I share with them what I know. I read extensively so I can share with them what I know.

I share with them…

  • the story of Dr Alexandre Chao.
  • the video of the Sar-Vivor Rap.
  • how we can play our parts in small ways.
  • how masks work.
  • how to spot fake news.
  • how to look out for one another.

I share with them to “be more than”.

I don’t know if they know how much we want to protect them. How everything we’re doing, while they are groaning, is done to protect them. But beyond protecting them physically, I want to protect the good in them.

The part that still wants to learn. The part that doesn’t discriminate an entire nationality just because that is where the virus originated. The part that still cares for the frontline workers and the families suffering bereavement. The part that questions and disdains the illogical behaviour of some Singaporeans.

It’s 2020, February 8. We’re a week away from Total Defence Day.

Now more than ever, we need to band together, we need to reach out and care for one another, we need to discern disinformation, and we seriously seriously seriously need to be good examples for our children.

How we act today determines how they act tomorrow. And it’s my sincerest hope that we raise a generation of Singaporeans who can ride the storms together.

THINK + TALK

  1. What are your responses to how Singaporeans have reacted during this crisis?
  2. How can we protect and call out the good in our generation and the next?
  3. What can you do in your sphere of influence to leave a positive impact?